Sunday, 30 June 2013

Review of Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful Ruins is a fascinating and magical novel set between the 1960s Italy and present day Hollywood.

On a remote part of Italian coastline called Porta Vergogna, a young man is determined to run a reputable hotel, which will attract American tourists. However, the hotel that he grew up in and inherited, which is called Hotel Adequate View, is not quite a luxury establishment. When a beautiful young american actress arrives at his hotel by boat, Pasquale thinks this is the beginning of his dreams. Then, he finds out that the actress is dying and has been sent here by the producers of the Cleopatra film, in which she was due to star.

The actress is Dee Moray and Pasquale is captivated by her. Despite their language barriers the two hit it off well and Pasquale will do anything for her. Fifty years later Pasquale turns up at a Hollywood studio looking for the beautiful actress who stayed in his hotel in 1962. We then see the story unravel and have to work out what happened in the meantime. There are a lot of surprises in this book and I particularly liked the way that each character seemed to have an equal amount of time devoted to them.

I really enjoyed this story and found myself completely hooked. It is filled with humour, despite the problems faced by most of the characters. There is a lot going on in this book, but I didn't at any point feel lost or confused. I absolutely loved the description of the setting in Italy. It is a real roller coaster of a read that I didn't want to put down.

This is a wonderful book, it is romantic, moving and compelling to read. I highly recommend it.

Thank you to Penguin for sending me a copy to review.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

An Evening with Cora Carmack

Last week I was invited to Random House to a fantastic event with new adult author Cora Carmack. I met up with Kate from The Friendly Shelf beforehand and we collected our name badges and got a delicious elderflower cocktail each.

The evening began with a fascinating talk by Cora.
Afterwards, we we were able to pick up delicious cupcakes, make book covers and have our books signed by Cora.

Here is a picture of the delicious cupcakes.

A selection of Cora's books

Here is a picture of the lovely goody bag that we got to take home:
Thank you so much to Hannah at Ebury for inviting me to this event. Look out for my review of Faking It, which is coming soon.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Review of The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway

The River of No Return is an enchanting and compulsive read by debut author Bee Ridgway.

It is a time travel novel that follows Lord Nicholas Falcott, Marquess of Blackdown who disappears in the heat of battle at Salamanca in the eighteenth century and re-appears in the twenty first century. He is adopted by The Guild, an organisation of time travellers and is soon immersed in twenty first century culture and taught to be a modern man.

I was fascinated by this dramatic storyline where people were suddenly thrown hundreds of years into the future. Nick is initially told that once someone has arrived in the future, there is no way of going back. Just as he starts to enjoy his twenty first century life in America, he is summoned back to the Guild and given an important mission. The problem is that this mission goes against everything that Nick has been taught for the Guild want him to go back in time, but if that is possible after all then just what else is the Guild hiding?

There are a lot of sub plots woven into the storyline. It is a long book which begins at a gentle pace, although the action certainly picked up towards the end of the story. I loved the romance element of this novel and Ridgway kept me on my toes wondering if anything would happen between Nick and Julia.

I really enjoyed reading this beautifully written book and will definitely be looking out for future work by Bee Ridgway. The River of No Return will appeal to fans of historical and romance novels.

The cover on this book is absolutely stunning!

Thank you to Penguin for sending me a copy to review.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Interview with Nick Taussig - Author of The Distinguished Assassin

I'm delighted to welcome Nick Taussig to the blog today. Nick has answered a few questions for us here...

Please tell us a little about yourself
I have a propensity for seriousness that I'd rather not possess, which is best tempered by wife Klara, my son Theo and a few choice friends, all of whom help me lighten up and realise that, in spite of how dark reality might sometimes seem, it should always be challenged with humour and light.

Can you tell us about The Distinguished Assassin and your inspiration for the book?
The inspiration, and forgive me, but I will sound serious now, was Alexander Solzhenitsyn who concluded in his Gulag Archipelago that every human being is “at various stages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being, at times close to being a devil, at times to sainthood.” I wanted my hero to walk this line between being a devil and a saint, and to explore the idea of a good man turned bad by a bad system which has inflicted great suffering on him. Inspiration was also David Cronenberg's film Eastern Promises, which led to a fascination with Russia's elite criminal class, the thieves-in-law, and far too much Russian literature, which I consumed with a feverish passion as an intense, and likely, rather morose undergraduate. 

What aspects of Stalinist Russia fascinate you the most?
The gulags, the thieves, the intellectuals - the last of these forbidden from exercising free thought. If they did, they were killed. The question which most fascinates me is how did a man such as Stalin reign for almost three decades? Possibly because the ideology he claimed to uphold, unlike Nazism, was noble and decent in aspiration: it promised a perfect utopia on earth. It seemed, therefore, that the Russian people were willing to sacrifice millions of their own in pursuit of this utopia, which Soviet Communism was meant to deliver, even though Stalin's murderous actions increasingly pointed to the fact that this utopia was nothing more than a fantasy, a delusion. 

Are there any aspects of modern Russia that you would like to explore further?
Yes, why the Russian people continue to put up with authoritarianism, Putin's now rather than Stalin's. And the extent of criminality within the FSB, Russia's Security Services, now the most powerful government agency in the country.

What are you currently working on?
Writing nothing, rather concentrating on producing films, and when I'm not doing this, reading. Sometimes it helps to stop writing for a bit and to focus solely on reading other writers. It's when you do this, and come across a good one, that you realise, in the best possible way, quite how much you still have to learn.

Thanks Nick.

You can find out more about Nick Taussig on his website:

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Review of Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

I had heard lots of good things about Beautiful Disaster and was really eager to read a copy.

Abby Abernathy has escaped her life in Kansas to go to college with her best friend America. Abby works hard  and will do anything to escape her past. That is until she meets Travis ‘Mad Dog’  Maddox, a college fighter and all round bad boy. Travis is the star of an underground fighting circle. He is everything that Abby is walking away and she is determined not to get romantically involved with him. However, the chemistry between them is evident from the moment that they meet and soon Travis will do anything for Abby. Travis is determined to make Abby a part of his life and makes a bet with her. If he loses the bet, he will remain celibate for a month. If Abby loses, she will have to live with him in his apartment for a month.

There is a lot of mystery in this book and it is not until about half way through that we really find out what Abby is determined to get away from. America is the most amazing best friend and will do anything for Abby, she was one of my favourite characters.

I was completely enthralled by this story, which is told from Abby’s point of view and read it in a short space of time. There is a lot of violence throughout, which is usually something that I’m not keen on but it seems to work with this storyline.

At times, I found Abby quite frustrating, as she seemed quite indecisive and just as I thought something would happen between her and Travis everything would change again.

Emotion wise, this is a roller coaster read, full of jealous rages and tearful reconciliations. There is so much passion bubbling at the surface that it is an addictive book to read and a real ‘will they, won’t they’ story. I can’t wait to start reading Walking Disaster now, which tells the story from Travis’ point of view.

 5 stars

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy to review.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Review of Losing It by Cora Carmack

I’ve really got into reading new adult titles recently and had heard a lot of good things about Losing It, which is the first in a trilogy by Cora Carmack.

Bliss is in her final year at college studying drama. She is 22 years old and a virgin. This is something that really bothers her and she makes a pact to lose her virginity. When she meets a handsome English man called Garrick in a bar, she is prepared to take the plunge. The real problem arises a few hours later when she finds out that he is her new tutor.

I actually really liked Bliss’ character; she describes herself as a control freak and worries about everything. I thought that this made her seem like someone who is easy to relate to. Garrick is a great character; you could tell instantly that there was a lot of chemistry between to two. I loved the way that both character know they shouldn’t have a student/teacher romance, but at the same time there is no hiding the chemistry between them. There are a number of sub-plots and supporting characters and each are cleverly woven into the storyline.

Losing It was fun to read, I found myself completely hooked and read it in one sitting and I laughed so much about Bliss’ dilemma over a cat. I particularly liked the way that Cormack has included references to Shakespeare throughout the book.

Losing It is a great book that had me laughing out loud in places. The book is much deeper than it initially sounds and is actually a sweet, romantic story. I can’t wait to read Faking It. If you’re  a fan of new adult or romance titles, I am sure that you will love this book.

Thank you to Ebury for sending me a copy to review.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Interview with Sylvia Day

I'm so excited to welcome Sylvia Day to the blog today.

I am a big fan of Sylvia Day and loved Bared to You and Reflected in You. I found both books addictive to read. I can't wait to read Entwined with You, which is the third instalment in the Crossfire series. Look out for my review, which will be coming up soon.

Tell us a little about what’s in store for Eva and Gideon in Entwined with You?

Eva’s in a different place in Entwined with You. At the end of Reflected in You, Gideon made a pretty large sacrifice for her. Her big issues had been insecurities, concerns about other people – and other women, particularly – in Gideon’s life. It’s hard to have those sorts of fears and self-doubt after the person you love makes a huge sacrifice for you, like Gideon did for her. So Eva’s in a much more stable place as far as her comfort level with the relationship and being able to accept the depth of Gideon’s commitment to her. Gideon, however – what he’s done, there are a lot of ramifications. Not just externally, but internally. So as Eva grows stronger, Gideon’s actually struggling with more. That said, she’s really the anchor for that relationship; she has been from the beginning. So with her being stable, it brings new strength to their love affair, and readers will see a lot more moments of calm and connection between the two than we have seen in the previous books.

 When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?

Rarely. For the most part, the characters are unique in my mind. They don’t look like anyone else.

The Crossfire novels have been hugely successful. What has been your most memorable experience as an author to date?

Every career has milestones. Over the last ten years, I’ve been blessed to have several big ones. Career-wise, the day Bared to You hit the New York Times bestseller list as a self-published book was one that meant a lot to me. Every aspect of the production was entirely under my control and that makes it very personal. Reader-wise, every time I have a meet-and-greet is a memorable experience for me. I love spending time with other readers who love the characters as much as I do.

Can you tell us a bit about your average working day?

Before I even roll out of bed, I’m checking my email via my iPhone. Since I’m in California, all of the industry professionals I work with are operating at least a few hours ahead of me, so I start every weekday trying to catch up. I’m at my computer from waking to sleeping, doing a mix of business items (interviews, Q & As, negotiations, contract fine-tuning, cover and marketing approvals, etc.) and actual writing. If I’m awake, there’s a 90 per cent chance I’m working, inclusive of weekends and holidays.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to read, watch television, see 3-D IMAX action films, and spend time hanging out with my kids.
Thanks Sylvia!
Entwined with You is available to buy now. You can find out more about Sylvia on her website:


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Review of The Child's Child by Barbara Vine

Grace and her gay brother Andrew have a special sibling relationship, so when they inherit their Grandmother`s house, they move in together to be free of rent and of annoying  housemates. However, they have ignored one very important possible tableau – what would happen if one of them wanted to add to their ménage with a lover?

Grace is developing her doctoral thesis on how unmarried mothers in literature were treated in the past. This becomes ironic, as Andrew falls in love with James, who subsequently takes up residence with Andrew in his half of the house. James and Andrew, on one of their nights out, are witnesses to the murder of a gay man by a group of homophobes. James is distraught and turns to Grace for comfort which becomes more than just a shoulder to cry on. Grace finds that she is pregnant and wants to keep the baby but the fallout from the murder has near-fatal consequences.

Barbara Vine interweaves the present with a fascinating parallel story, also involving family betrayal, murder and the consequences both of having a gay brother and being an unmarried mother, set  in the 1920s through to the 1950s. Although on the surface the facts in the two stories are similar, the treatment past and present is very different in some ways but prejudice has not disappeared. I love Barbara`s rich prose and thought-provoking perceptions on the topics of single motherhood and homosexuality – she has enhanced  her writing here with much research. A mesmerising and thoroughly excellent read.
Review by Liz.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Launch Party for The Affair by Gill Paul

A couple of weeks ago I attended the launch party for The Affair by Gill Paul. The venue in London was full of pictures taken during the filming of Cleopatra, which were really fascinating to look at.

It was a brilliant evening, I met up with Carrie Duffy author of Idol and Diva and we all enjoyed the delicious pizza, prosecco and cupcakes that were served during the evening.

Thank you so much Gill for inviting me!

Here are a few pictures from the evening:

The amazing cupcakes with mini book covers on them:

Here is Gill giving a speech about the book:

You can read my review of The Affair here:

I also did an interview with Gill earlier in the month that you can read here: